Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World
NOTE: CLOSING SOON – 3 PLACES REMAINING
- Join John Patrick, horticulturalist, garden designer and presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, and Dr Rudolf Thomann, a natural scientist, to explore Chile’s unique flora and fauna.
- Visit public gardens and enjoy privileged access to private gardens that both reflect Chile’s lively contemporary garden culture.
- Visit the eccentric houses of Chile’s greatest poet, the colourful Pablo Neruda, and hear marvellous stories which inspired Isabel Allende.
- Explore the rainbow-hued UNESCO World Heritage Listed coastal town of Valparaíso.
- Visit Santiago’s great Museum of Pre-Columbian Art to explore the rich cultural history of Central and South America, and the Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum with its superb collection from the ancient cultures of the Atacama region.
- Discover the fascinating geology of the Atacama Desert – a high-altitude 1,200km expanse of dunes, plains, high peaks, and active volcanoes – with visits to Moon Valley in the Salt Mountain Range, the ancient village of Tocanao, Atacama Salt Flat and the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon.
- Enjoy the awesome natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District, visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes.
Take a swim in the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest.
- Learn about the Mapuche community at Curarrehue’s ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’ – enjoy their culture of music, dance, and colourful costumes.
- Cruise Lago Todos Los Santos to view three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Orsorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador.
- Spend 2 days in the Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – a wilderness of scrubland, ridges, rivers, lakes and lagoons and the eponymous torres (towers) of the Paine Massif; a highlight is our excursion to see the icebergs on Lago Grey.
- Visit vibrant artists’ markets, and sample distinctive cuisine and enjoy the fine wines for which Chile is famed.
21-day Flora & Fauna Tour of Chile
Overnight Santiago (4 nights) • Zapallar (2 nights) • Viña del Mar (2 nights) • San Pedro de Atacama (2 nights) • Santiago (1 night) • Pucón (2 nights) • Puerto Varas (3 nights) • Torres del Paine National Park (3 nights) • Santiago (1 night)
Optional Extension to Easter Island
Overnight Hanga Roa (4 nights) • Santiago (1 night)
Santiago – 4 nights
Day 1: Sunday 14 October, Arrive Santiago
Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ‘ASA designated’ flight
Short Orientation Walk & Light 2-course dinner
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated flight’ are scheduled to arrive into Santiago in the late afternoon. After clearing customs we transfer by private coach to our the Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, located in the Barrio Lastarria. Following check-in and time to freshen up after the long journey, there will be a short orientation walk in the hotel’s historic precinct followed by a light evening meal. (Overnight Santiago) D
Day 2: Monday 15 October, Santiago
Morning private garden visits (to be confirmed)
Mercado Central de Santiago
Walking tour of historic Santiago incl. Plaza de Armas, Parque Forestal & Cerro Santa Lucía
Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant
We spend the morning visiting some private gardens selected by our local Chilean expert. These visits will be by special invitation and will introduce you to some of the very latest the country has to offer in garden design that exploit Chile’s unique climate, landscapes and flora.
We return by coach to the city where we tour the Mercado Central and have time at leisure for lunch. Santiago’s fish market is housed in a 19th-century building featuring a beautiful cast-iron roof. Amongst its many stalls are numerous small restaurants serving a variety of fresh Chilean seafood dishes.
After lunch we embark on a walking tour of the city. We begin at the centre of Santiago’s social life, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by heritage buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the old post office, and the National Historical Museum. We continue past the Palacio de Bellas Artes to the Parque Forestal by the Mapocho River, where we encounter buildings dating from 1520 to the present day. The park was founded as the setting for the Fine Arts Museum. It was designed by George Dubois in a picturesque, naturalistic (English) style with plants imported from Europe and Argentina. Its romantic lake has disappeared but its magnificent six rows of Platanus X hispanica (London Plane) frame views to nearby Cerro San Cristóbel.
We continue to Santa Lucía Hill, so named because Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia took this strategic hill from its native defenders on the well-known female saint’s day. Between 1872 and 1874, it was transformed into a public promenade. In 1936, the German landscape designer Oscar Prager completed a project for the southern slope that descends to the Almeda, Santiago’s main avenue. The gardens, with their ramps and stairs, provide a valuable civic amenity.
We return to our hotel to rest and freshen up before heading to a local restaurant for our welcome dinner. (Overnight Santiago) BD
Day 3: Tuesday 16 October, Santiago
Viña Santa Rita: picnic lunch & wine-tasting
Cable Car to Cerro San Cristóbal
Pablo Neruda’s House: ‘Casa Museo La Chascona’
This morning we drive to the Viña Santa Rita, one of Chile’s premier wine estates, located in the verdant valleys of the Maipo wine-making region. We will walk through the vineyards and wine cellars and learn about the processes of traditional Chilean wine production. The winery, covering more than 3,000 hectares, also features the historic ‘Bodega 1′ and ‘Bodega de los 120 patriotas’ which are considered a national treasure. Whilst enjoying the glorious view of the sculpted gardens we will taste some of the vineyard’s wines, which include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and cabernet franc. We then drive to Cerro San Cristóbal, the second-highest hill of the city (850m). A ride on the cable car affords magnificent broad panoramas of the city.
Next, we visit ‘La Chascona’, the Santiago home of Chile’s most famous poet, the Nobel Laureate, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). His house is a triumph of artistic flourishes and includes a very broad, eccentric collection, including works of maritime art. It is located in the historic Bellavista district – home to an important arts community. (Overnight Santiago) BL
Day 4: Wednesday 17 October, Santiago
Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Barrio Lastarria neighbourhood
Jardín Botánico Chagual
This morning we visit the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art), founded by the Chilean architect and antiquities collector Sergio Larraín García-Moreno. The museum displays García-Moreno’s magnificent private collection from the major pre-Columbian Central American, Intermediate / Isthmo-Colombian (Panama etc.), Caribbean, Amazonian and the Andean cultures acquired over the course of nearly 50 years. Housed in the Palacio de la Real Aduana (1805-1807), the museum underwent extensive renovations and reopened in 2014. The collection, which ranges over 10,000 years, includes exhibits of art, sculpture, pottery, textiles and jewellery. Highlights include pieces from the Inca and Aztec empires, and the 7,000-year-old Chinchorro mummies discovered in 1983.
We then transfer to the vibrant Barrio Lastarria, a lovely historic neighbourhood in the city centre, known for its bohemian flavour and diverse cultural activity such as festivals and live performances; it has many theatres, museums, restaurants and bars. The precinct developed around the Church of the True Cross soon after Pedro de Valdivia’s Conquest of Chile. Old houses, recently restored, occupy its winding streets and the Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro.
Following a light lunch, we visit the Chagual Botanical Garden, located in the Parque Metropolitano near the Cerro San Cristóbal. It occupies 84 acres and is still in the early stages of planning and development. The aim is to recreate central Chile’s unique ecosystems featuring special collections of endangered, medicinal and other significant plants such as those with special botanical or economic value. Of particular interest, it will feature plants native to Chile’s ‘Mediterranean’ climatic zone like those of southeastern and southwestern Australia, California and the South African Cape. The Melbourne Botanic Gardens and Kings Park, Perth, have been assisting with advice on this project. The flora of Chile is diverse and spectacular and these gardens are named after the eye-catching chagual (puya chilensis) which is indigenous to the region.
We end the day with a visit to the Parque Bicentenario, a communal city garden with interesting landscape design by Teodoro Fernández L. Architects. The park is located next to ‘Sanhattan’, the popular ironic sobriquet given to Santiago’s ‘high-end’ financial district. Spread over 30 hectares along the eastern bank of the Mapocho River, it includes over 4,000 trees of which more than 1,300 are native species. (Overnight Santiago) BL
Zapallar – 2 nights
Day 5: Thursday 18 October, Santiago – Parque Nacional La Campana – Zapallar
Parque Nacional La Campana
Time at leisure in Zapallar
This morning we depart Santiago and drive to the Chilean coast. On the way we visit Parque Nacional La Campana which occupies the highest part of Chile’s coastal mountain range (cordillera). Charles Darwin climbed Cerro La Campana (1,800m) in 1845. The park, which features rugged coastal scenery, features the finest remaining stands of Chilean palm (Jubaea chilensis). The palms occur here among typical matorral vegetation, with soap-bark tree (Quillaja saponaria), Lithraea caustica, Adesmia arborea, and others. These palms, which grow to a height of 25 metres, first flower at the age of 60, and can live for 1,000 years. The genus was named after Juba II, a Berber king and botanist. The common name refers to the past use of the sap from the trunk of this palm to produce a fermented beverage. The sap is also boiled down into a syrup and sold locally as miel de palma. Although described somewhat disdainfully by Charles Darwin as a ‘very ugly tree’, many consider the Chilean wine palm J. chilensis to be one of the most impressive palms in the world.
After a picnic lunch we continue on to Zapallar where there will be time at leisure to explore the town before we enjoy a group dinner at a waterfront restaurant. Zapallar is a quaint, elegant seaside resort built along steep hills on a protected horseshoe bay between rugged, steep cliffs and rocky precipices. It offers majestic views and has many historic mansions that now sit side-by-side with contemporary homes. A Mediterranean micro-climate allows the cultivation of the many attractive gardens that have always adorned the town. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD
Day 6: Friday 19 October, Zapallar – Los Vilos – Zapallar
Morning private garden visit (to be confirmed)
Reserva Ecologica El Puquén, Los Molles
Following a visit to a private garden (arrangements to be confirmed), we explore the dramatic coastal El Puquén Ecological Reserve, with rugged cliffs, unusual geological formations including a volcanic cave, ancient middens, fossil zones and an interesting endemic flora (lúcumo and wild papayo). The park is home to interesting fauna, including chilla foxes (South American grey foxes), quiques (a yellow-grey animal with back spots, similar to a skunk), eagles, harmless snakes and the cururo – a species of small endemic rodent that lives underground. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD
Viña del Mar – 2 nights
Day 7: Saturday 20 October, Zapallar – Papudo – Quillota – Viña del Mar
Private garden visits (arrangements to be confirmed)
This morning we plan to visit private gardens in the area outside of Zapallar. In the afternoon we continue our journey to the resort beach town of Viña del Mar, known popularly as ‘The Garden City’. (Overnight Viña del Mar) BL
Day 8: Sunday 21 October, Viña del Mar – Valparaíso – Viña del Mar
Funicular ‘El Peral’ ride to Conception Hill, Valparaíso
Cerro Alegre and merchant houses, Valparaíso
House museum of poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’, Valparaíso
National Botanical Garden (‘Saltpeter Park’), Viña del Mar (to be confirmed)
Our first visit this morning is to colonial Valparaíso, one of Chile’s most captivating cities, noted for its colourful history as a major port and its rich artistic, literary and political traditions. It is also physically very colourful, with extraordinary brightly painted houses crammed up against each other along the city’s steep slopes. The city’s fascinating blend of past and present has caused it to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looks out across a wide bay with the upper parts of the town reached by stairs, narrow streets and funicular railways.
We ride the funicular ‘El Peral’ up Conception Hill which commands excellent views to the port. We then visit the port itself and the city centre and stroll through some of the avenues leading to the scenic point, Cerro Alegre. The dwellings here were once owned by foreign merchants who began building around 1840.
After time at leisure for lunch we continue to another former home of the poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’. It is shaped like the hull of a ship and its contents reflect Neruda’s love of the sea. From the poet’s desk there is a spectacular view of the Pacific; he is thought to have written many poems about the natural world seated here.
We next drive to the garden originally known as ‘Saltpeter Park’ at Viña del Mar. This oasis, covering an area of 395 hectares with more than 3,000 species of flora, was originally commissioned by nitrate baron Pascual Baburizza, and was created by the French landscape gardener George Dubois. The park was donated to the Nitrate and Iodine Company so as to assure its survival. In 1951 this corporation donated the park to the Chilean State; its name was changed to ‘National Botanical Garden’. It serves both an educational and scientific purpose, and is an excellent place to go walking, thanks to its stony paths, ponds and woodlands. Highlights of the garden include one of the few documented collections of the extinct Toromiro of Easter Island (Sophora Toromiro), a collection of plants from the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a Cactarium with 60 Chilean species, and collections of Chilean Myrtaceae, ‘bosque valdiviano‘ (Valdivian forest) plants, medicinal plants and fuchsias. (Overnight Viña del Mar) B
San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights
Day 9: Monday 22 October, Viña del Mar – Santiago – Calama – San Pedro de Atacama
Morning flight from Santiago to Calama
Parque para la Preservación de la Memoria Histórica de Calama
Valle de la Luna & Cordillera de la Sal, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos
This morning we drive back to Santiago and board a flight to Calama, which marks the northern end of the Atacama Desert. From here we drive 103 kilometres southeast to San Pedro de Atacama which will be our base from which to explore the desert. En route we pass the memorial dedicated to victims of human rights violations. Students, communists, socialists, union members, indigenous people—ideological threats to Augusto Pinochet’s vision of fascism and free market economics, were arrested, murdered and thrown into mass graves throughout the country. The murdered of Chile were buried in the Atacama Desert, for example, during what was known as the Caravan of Death of 1973. The Pinochet regime’s depredations inspired Sting’s famous protest song They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo: 1987), referring to mourning Chilean women (arpilleristas) who dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance, carrying photographs of their disappeared loved ones. (Watch on Youtube)
In the afternoon we drive to the Valle de la Luna (‘Moon Valley’). Its extraordinary landscape of strange rock formations is part of the protected nature sanctuary, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, in the Salt Mountain Range. The valley forms a depression surrounded by jagged spines of salt-encrusted hills, with an immense sand dune running between two ridges, resulting in unbelievable moon-like scenery. We also view the canyon and small dunes of the Cordillera de la Sal (‘Salt Mountain Range’). (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BD
Day 10: Tuesday 23 October, San Pedro de Atacama
Agro-ecological tour of Toconao village
Quebrada de Jeréz
Salara de Atacama & Flamingos of Laguna Chaxa, Los Flamencos National Reserve
We begin today with an agro-ecological tour of Toconao village, located between the Andes Mountain Range and the Atacama Salt Lake. The horizon here is dominated by very high volcanoes. This little colonial village dates back 12,000 years; there is evidence of 10,000-year-old human presence in the area, making it an area of great historical and archaeological significance. It features picturesque stone houses made from local liparita stone (pumice) extracted from the local quarry, and the old church of San Lucas with its distinctive 18th-century bell tower. The sweet waters of this small oasis support a variety of fruit trees such as Easter pears, plums, quinces and grapes, as well as a wide range of vegetables. The town also features small handicraft workshops whose products include woven products made from alpaca wool. From Toconao we travel to the Jerez Canyon through which runs the Toconao River.
After lunch at a local restaurant we visit the Atacama Salt Flat; at 3,000 sq km, this is one of the world’s largest salt flats. It is also home to the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon, part of the Soncor, a section of the Salar de Atacama in the Los Flamencos National Reserve. In this high, desert landscape, framed by mountains of nearly 6,000 metres, the Soncor provides a breeding ground for a wide variety of species including Chilean and Andean flamingos that use it as an important nesting site, the Andean avocet, the yellow-billed teal, the crested duck, the puna plover and Baird’s sandpiper. Various plant species grow around the edges of the lagoon, such as Distichlis spicata, Ephedra and cachiyuyo (a species of the genus Atriplex), among others. We will observe flamingos in the lagoon in which they feed and breed. (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BL
Santiago – 1 night
Day 11: Wednesday 24 October, San Pedro de Atacama – Calama – Santiago
Church of San Pedro
Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum
Afternoon flight from Calama to Santiago
We spend the morning visiting San Pedro de Atacama, a small isolated oasis town of modest pisé dwellings. The Atacamaño (or Kunza) culture flourished here. The earliest site dates from 9,600 BC, when cave-dwelling hunters arrived from the altiplano. There’s evidence of camelid domestication about 4,800 years ago; the San Pedro culture formed 3,000 years ago, succeeded by the more sophisticated Classic Atacameño culture 2,000 years ago. This reached its peak in the 12th century and ended with the arrival of the Incas around 1450. It was a vital resting place on the northern trade routes through the desert.
San Pedro has a beautiful small white 18th-century colonial church with a picturesque bell tower. The church is surprisingly long, with rustic vaulting of cactus wood slats and algarrobo beams bound with leather. Inside, naïve statues of saints clothed in fine satins stand on the reredos.
To the northeast of the plaza lies the modern Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum that holds superb exhibits from the Inca and other periods in the region’s pre-Columbian history. Father Gustave LePaige (1903-80) was a Belgian Jesuit priest who came to Chile in 1952. He was based in San Pedro from 1955 until his death, dedicating himself to building this archaeological collection; we shall enjoy a commentary on these exhibits by a local archaeologist. The Atacaman Desert is so arid that most artefacts are notably well-preserved. Highlights include the treasury of beaten gold bands dating from 500-900 AD, red and black ceramics of the Classic Atacameño culture, Inca ceramics with images of the sun, textiles and various mummies.
In the late morning we return to Calama for an early light lunch before taking our flight to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL
Pucón – 2 nights
Day 12: Thursday 25 October, Santiago – Temuco – Curarrehue – Pucón
Morning flight from Santiago to Temuco
Mapuche community & Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm, Curarrehue
Private gardens of Hotel Antumalal
This morning we fly south to Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía Region, in Chile’s very beautiful Lakes District.
On arrival we drive to the Mapuche community in the town of Cuerarrehue, which is surrounded by high, sharp peaks. The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of Patagonia. Mapuche is a collective term describing a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, and a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Today this group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile; their culture is documented as early as 600 BC.
We shall visit the museum and cultural centre, ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’, which presents Mapuche culture and that of the community of Curarrehue. The museum is housed in a modern interpretation of a mountain ruka, a traditional circular Mapuche dwelling oriented to the east. It includes displays of handicrafts, Mapuche cooking and a program of experimental music.
While in Curarrehue we also enjoy a traditional lunch, which usually includes famous sopaipillas (fried pastry) served with special homemade pebre (a sauce of onion, tomato, garlic and herbs).
After lunch we continue to Pucón where we visit the private gardens of Hotel Antumalal. Designed by the Chilean architect Jorge Elton in the 40s, and influenced by the Bauhaus style, it is considered one of the most famous hotels of the Lakes District. It hosted Queen Elizabeth on her tour of Chile in 1968. The gardens, spread over 5 hectares, offer panoramic views of Lake Villarrica and include five waterfalls with natural volcanic rock pools, a vegetable garden and an array of native vegetation.
In the early evening we arrive at the Villarrica Park Lake Hotel, where we shall be based for two nights. (Overnight Pucón) BLD
Day 13: Friday 26 October, Pucón
Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica
Termas Geométricas: time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools
We spend the day visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Villarrica, witnessing the stunning natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District. The park, which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes (Villarrica, Quetrupillánd and Lanín), includes a number of very good walking trails, which lead through the forest, meandering past alpine lakes and deep canyons. The park is also home to the rare Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree), a protected species, of which specimens may live for over 1,000 years and takes five centuries just to reach maturity. We shall visit the south side of the Villarrica volcano which features a dense forest of these trees.
We end the day with a visit to the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest. Suspended over a flowing stream, a maze of red planks winding through the forest, lead to the various pools. There are 17 pools in total, each fed directly from a natural hot spring via wooden pipes. Next to each pool is a small hut/changing room made of the same redwood as the paths. Each hut has grass planted on the roof, giving the whole facility a timeless feel, almost as if they are some extension of the natural backdrop. The complex rests at the bottom of a canyon, and mists rise from the warm waters in a nearly constant fog. Between the Japanese-styled architecture and the Chilean nature, few places in the world can claim quite such a perfect harmony of nature and design. There will be ample time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools. (Overnight Pucón) BL
Puerto Varas – 3 nights
Day 14: Saturday 27 October, Pucon – Valdivia – Puerto Varas
Valdivia city tour
Calle-Calle River Cruise: Wetlands of the Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary, San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera
Today we visit one of Chile’s most beautiful historic cities, Valdivia, founded by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Valdivia (1497-1553) in 1522. This southern city was of great strategic significance to the Spanish Empire. Its proximity to the Strait of Magellan made it a mandatory shelter on the route to meet the Peruvian viceroyalty. It was also rich in gold and timber and located on the largest navigable river network in the country. The Calle-Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces and Valdivia Rivers which run through this river port invest it with particular charm.
We shall tour the city, visiting the river market and the Torreón del Canelo, a watchtower used by the Spanish as protection against the Mapuches and pirates. It was built in the 17th century and restored by Ambrosio O´Higgins in the 18th century. Many of Valdivia’s houses are in German styles, built by migrants. We shall see San Francisco Church, the Cathedral and the Plaza de la República, with a giant arbour under which citizens enjoy the shade.
We also visit Teja Island, where we see the Universidad Austral de Chile campus and Valdivia’s Botanical Gardens, which display a rich variety of native and exotic species, including panaceas, cedars, ‘mediterráneos’, coihues, cypresses, laurel, tree ferns, poplars, acacias and plants from the Magellan and Valdivian forests. We continue to the traditional Kunstmann Brewery where we can taste the most diverse kinds of famous Valdivian hand-brewed beers.
We shall then embark on a cruise along the Calle-Calle River where we will encounter sea lions and view a number of Spanish Forts; Niebla, Fuerte Corral, and Fuerte Mancera. We shall journey through the wetlands of Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary. This area was declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1981, and in the same year it was included in the ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’. It was formed by an earthquake which submerged the area in 1960; agricultural land subsided to a depth of 1 to 2 metres. Subsequently it was colonised by vegetation, which made a home for aquatic fauna, especially birds. There are at present 119 species living in the wetland and adjoining areas. Amongst others there are black-necked swans, coots, coscoroba swans, marsh crows, coypu and river otters.
We shall also view the San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera, one of the seventeen Spanish fortresses built in the area from the 17th century, as well as the San Pedro de Alcántara Fort and the Corral Fort.
Mid-afternoon we continue our drive to Puerto Varas where we shall be based for three nights. Our hotel is within walking distance of the beach and offers panoramic views of Llanquihue Lake and the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BLD
Day 15: Sunday 28 October, Puerto Varas – Frutillar – Puerto Varas
German Colonial Museum, Frutillar
Amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago), Frutillar
Time at leisure
Today we drive south to the lakeside resort of Frutillar, located on Llanquihue Lake near the Osorno Volcano. This was Chile’s first German migrant town. Frutillar is famous for its music festival ‘Las Semanas Musicales de Frutillar’ that came into being in 1968. A particular characteristic of Frutillar is its houses German-style houses. There are beautiful gardens in the town. We shall visit the German Colonial Museum and the amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago) where the famous music festival is held.
We shall return to the hotel by mid-afternoon to enjoy some time at leisure. (Overnight Puerto Varas) B
Day 16: Monday 29 October, Puerto Varas – Peulla (island on Todos los Santos Lake) – Puerto Varas
Petrohué Falls, Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Catamaran Cruise from Petrohué to Peulla on Lago Todos Los Santos
La Villa Ecológica de Peulla
Today we visit the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park which not only contains the loveliest of Chile’s lakes, but also three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Osorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador. With up to 4 metres of annual precipitation, the park is covered with dense evergreen forrest, notably coihue. Lago Todos Los Santos is surrounded with olivine, coihue and other trees.
We depart early in the morning by bus from Puerto Varas to Petrohué, enjoying views of the Osorno Volcano, which dominates the region. On arrival we make a brief visit to the Petrohué Falls, which flow down volcanic rock chutes etched by lava. From Petrohué we board a catamaran for a 2-hour cruise across the green waters of Lago Todos Los Santos to the ecological town of Peulla. If visibility allows, we shall see the snow-capped Osorno Volcano, the Puntiaguado hill and the Tronador (extinct volcano) from our boat.
On arrival at Peulla we visit the Ecological Villa which is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and lunch at the Peulla Hotel. In the mid-afternoon we return to Puerto Varas. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BL
Torres del Paine – 3 nights
Day 17: Tuesday 30 October, Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine
Flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas
Museo Nao Viktoria
Today we drive to Puerto Montt to take our flight south to Punta Arenas located in the heart of Chilean Patagonia. From here we drive north to the vast Torres del Paine National Park.
En route we visit the Museo Nao Viktoria, which contains replicas of the ships that contributed to the discovery and colonisation of the area or have a special and historic heritage significance for the Magallanes Region of Chile. The replicas were built using traditional shipbuilding techniques. A highlight of the collection is the full-size replicas of historic ships which include the Nao Victoria, James Caird, Schooner Ancud and HMS Beagle. HMS Beagle, a British Navy brig-sloop, was converted into an exploration vessel. The most famous of her three voyages was the second (1831-1836) under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865). On board was the young Charles Darwin. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD
Day 18: Wednesday 31 October, Torres del Paine National Park
Excursion to the National Park’s Waterfalls and Lookout points
Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) encompasses the great Cordillera del Paine, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The park, which lies in a transition zone between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes, is located 112 kilometres north of Puerto Natales and 312 kilometres north of Punta Arenas. Paine means ‘blue’ in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-na. Out of the grasslands of the Patagonian Steppe, with its herds of grazing guanacos (which are akin to llamas), soar the distinctive torres (towers) – three grey granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif which form part of the tapering spine of the Andes. They rise up to 2,800m above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. The Park’s well-known lakes include Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. Its glaciers, including Grey, Pingo and Tyndall, belong to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
Today’s excursion will begin at the Forestry Corporation Visitors Centre to gain an overview of this biosphere reserve. We then visit the Salto Grande where a short walk takes us to the imposing waterfall, and where we can view the Paine Grande Mountain. We also visit the Lago Nordenskjöld viewpoint, the Amarga Lagoon and the Paine River Falls, as well as encountering panoramic views of the Torres del Paine. Today’s lunch will be a picnic taken at Laguna Azul. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD
Note: Today you have the option of taking a more strenuous trek through the Torres del Paine National Park, with the arrangements made by the hotel.
Day 19: Thursday 1 November, Torres del Paine National Park
Walk along Grey beach with views of the iceberg
Boat Excursion across Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier
The focus of today is a visit to the Grey Glacier, one of Torres del Paine’s most spectacular glaciers, and Lago Grey that it fills, one of its most beautiful lakes. On the approach to Lago Grey we cross a rickety bridge over a fast-flowing stream, then journey through dense forest. We then emerge from the trees onto what looks like a shingle beach overlooking the lake itself. Lago Grey is bordered by a moraine, the result of debris deposited by the glacier, and an iceberg graveyard. If the weather is fine, we shall take a 3-hour boat trip out on the lake. As we travel across the water, Glacier Grey comes into view in the distance. A wide, bluish wall sandwiched between bare rock plateaux, its façade is a mass of jagged, eroding ice. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD
Santiago – 1 night
Day 20: Friday 2 November, Torres del Paine National Park – Punta Arenas – Santiago
‘Asado patagonico’, Patagonian lamb BBQ
Afternoon flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago
Today we drive back to Punta Arenas. En route we visit a traditional Patagonian estancia (ranch) where the owner will explain the traditions of Patagonian sheep farming and horse breeding. We also enjoy a traditional Patagonian lamb asado (barbecue) before taking an afternoon flight back to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL
Day 21: Saturday 3 November, Depart Santiago
Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our program finishes in Santiago. Participants travelling on the ‘designated flight’ will be transferred to the airport to take our flight home to Australia. Participants electing to travel on the ASA optional extension program to Easter Island will also be transferred to the airport to commence their program B
Optional Extension Program to Easter Island: Hanga Roa, Easter Island – 4 nights
Day 1: Saturday 3 November, Santiago – Hanga Roa, Easter Island
Morning flight to Easter Island
This morning you will be transferred to the airport to take the flight to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, to use its Polynesian name. The rich and unique culture and archaeology of this island led to it being named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and much of the island is now a national park.
Rapa Nui is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world – the nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island located over 2,000 kilometres away! Rapa Nui was settled by Polynesian people between 700 and 1100 AD. A thriving culture developed on the island and we will see much evidence of this in the monumental statues called moai, that are found throughout the island. It is estimated that this small island had a population of up to 15,000 people, but this thriving civilisation was greatly weakened by the gradual deforestation of the island and extinction of natural resources, brought about by human activity, overpopulation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat. When Dutch explorers first encountered the island on Easter Day in 1722 the population was approximately 3,000 people, but this dropped to just 111 in 1877, as the indigenous people struggled to survive introduced European diseases such as typhoid and smallpox, and brutal raids by Peruvian slavers. Today Rapa Nui’s population is 6,000 residents, of which 60% are of indigenous descent.
On arrival in the island at 1325hrs you will be transferred to the hotel for check in and lunch. We then take a short orientation tour of the island’s only town, Hanga Roa, then visit Museo Antropológico Sebastian Englert, a fascinating museum named after the Bavarian missionary priest who lived here from 1935 until his death in 1969. Fr Sebastian was a keen scholar and he devoted himself to the language, oral traditions and archaeology of the Rapa Nui indigenous culture.
Late this afternoon we drive to Ahu Tahai, an archaeological site a short distance from the town where we shall enjoy our first encounter with the island’s famous moai at sunset.
This site was restored in 1974 and comprises three platforms (ahu) with moai. The statues of the ahu Ko Te Riku have restored eyes and headdresses (pukaos) and give a vivid impression of the splendid and imposing nature of the Rapa Nui culture. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B
Day 2: Sunday 4 November, Easter Island
Ahu Te Pito Kura
This morning we first visit Vaihu where we will find eight moai lying face down in the same position they were left when they were deliberately toppled around the time of European discovery of the island. The decimation of the population saw the loss of much of the island’s cultural heritage, and the reason for the decline of the indigenous culture in the century before European arrival is an area of debate. It is believed that the moai are manifestations of a powerful ancestor cult and the means by which the living could communicate with the dead. In the later pre-European decades, the statue building practice gave way to the Bird Man Cult where the medium to communicate with the ancestors was a human chosen through competition. It is believed that is was during this phase that the moai were deliberately toppled. However, the obvious care by which the statues were lowered face-down to the ground has led scholars to suggest another theory, that the statues were lowered so they could not witness the struggles of the Rapa Nui in the 18th century.
We next travel to Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater within the Rano Raraku National Park that supplied almost all the stone for the island’s moai. Within the quarry are a number of incomplete statues. It appears that some of these were never intended to the separated from the rock from which they are carved, being located in inaccessible areas high on the outside of the crater walls, or much larger than any moai found that had been transported away. There are also several standing statues at Rano Raraku that were not deliberately pushed over. They do not have hollowed out eyes or headdresses and they are partially buried to the shoulders in the spoil from the quarry.
Our route continues to two further ahu – Ahu Tongariki, a 220-metre-long platform with 15 majestic statues with their backs to the sea, and Ahu Te Pito Kura, a complex with a huge toppled moai and nearby the sacred magnetic stone known as ‘Tita’a hanga ‘o te henua’, or ‘navel of light’.
In the mid-afternoon we return to Hanga Roa where the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Return to hotel in mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BL
Day 3: Monday 5 November, Easter Island
Afternoon at Leisure
Evening meal with demonstration of traditional dances
This morning we visit Ahu Akivi, a platform with 7 identical moai restored to their standing position. Unlike other examples we have seen, these statues face outwards towards the ocean, although the site is located inland. The site served as a celestial observatory and dates to the 16th century. During the Spring Equinox they directly face sunset, and during the Autumn Equinox they have their backs to the sunrise.
We then visit Puna Pau, the small volcanic crater where the red scoria stone used for the moai headdress were quarried.
We return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure before we enjoy a group evening meal with a demonstration of traditional Rapa Nui dances. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BD
Day 4: Tuesday 6 November
Rano Kau extinct volcano
Orongo Ceremonial Village
Cave of Ana Kai Tangata petroglyphs
Our first stop this morning is the extinct volcano of Rano Kau, which forms the southwestern headland of the island. The crater lake is one of just three natural water sources on the island, and the crater, which is a mile in diameter, has its own microclimate. On the crater’s edge we find the ruined ceremonial village of Orongo, containing a collection of low, windowless round-walled buildings that were restored to their current state in the 1970s. Orongo was a centre of the birdman cult. Competitors had to make the dangerous crossing through the surf to the nearby islet of Motu Nui and find an egg of the migratory sooty tern, then climb up the steep, jagged cliff-face to Orongo. The site has many petroglyphs with representations of tangata manu (birdmen).
After a visit to Ahu Vinapu where we find one of the larger moai on the island in a platform that faces towards the sunrise on the winter solstice, we continue to the cave of Ana Kai Tangata. Being a volcanic island there are many lava tubes and cave networks and Ana Kai Tangata is one of the most accessible. Here we find splendid rock with paintings in red white and black depicting the sooty tern and also boats, including European vessels. Some scholars suggest that for the indigenous people of Rapa Nui the island was the whole world and only the migratory birds could come and go. When Europeans arrived in their large ships, the Rapa Nui may have believed they were messengers from beyond, arriving and disappearing in the ocean like the birds. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B
Santiago – 1 night
Day 5: Wednesday 7 November, Easter Island – Santiago
Morning at leisure
This morning is at leisure. In the early afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Santiago, arriving at 2140hrs. On arrival in the capital we will be transferred to the hotel. (Overnight Santiago) B
Day 6: Thursday 8 November, Depart Santiago
Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in Santiago. Participants travelling on the designated group flight will be transferred to the airport. B